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Jun 29, 2005

Your Turn: Man of the Season


Okay, the BAG yields the floor. 

Because the discussion has been so good here over the past few weeks, I leave this cover to the BAG community to deconstruct.  Also, if you've been following along but have been hesitant to share, this is your chance to jump in.  Make it your contribution to the cause.

(... And for those of you who like a little more stimulus, here's the accompanying lead article, as well as the last three Economist covers featuring Bush: Merci y'all (2/26/05); Mr. Bush Goes To Belgium (2/19/05); and Four More Years ...and a lot to do (1/15/05).)

Let the scorching begin.

(image: Reuters.  Economist cover.  June 25, 2005)


Hmm, the isolation of the solitairy figure is threatened by the tsunami-like, hulking shape in the distance. But, lost in the mirage of heatwaves, it could just be a forlorn hope of a vainglorious exercise.

Oh, if only Ernest Hemingway could write a story about this old man and the insurgency.

A comment on his Iraq policy? He looks lost in the desert.

THere's also his halmark squinty eyes. It's the look he makes when he's "thinking," though I can't help to interpret in terms of the doubt over the admin's grasp of reality.

Another thought is that he's searching for a coherent policy.

Funny, I saw this cover earlier today and thought you might feature it on BAG.

I see two images. One is of a man who's somewhere he doesn't belong (at least not anymore). That is, the photo of W looks like he's superimposed on top of an image of a desert, since the colour of the foreground is more pronounced than the colour of the background. The second image is of a man not so much with an incoherent polcy as Daniel suggests, but one where he is surrounded by policymakers that present him with a very limited set of choices, as when people think of deserts, I would say they don't think of them as areas of fertile vegitation.

He looks old, confused, and stuck in the middle of nowhere.

He must be in Texas, because he's got that hulking, swaggering, faux-masculine posture he always appropriates when he's at his fake ranch in Crawford (contrast to the downright sissified way he minces about the Oval Office).

Some repressed Southern Baptist housewife would probably think he looks sexy as hell in this photo (blech), if Southern Baptist housewives subscribed to The Economist.

Do the British or other non-Americans get the whole John Wayne cowboy pose here, or to their eyes does he merely look like a dumb thug hooligan?

I'm curious as to how this image was made. Indeed it does look as though Bush was super-imposed onto the desert image. I want to comment on the Presidents clothing. Nice shirt, pants, and a massively prominant belt buckle. Kinda designed to draw the eyes to the crotch, showing off the "big powerful man" he is.

My question is, he's in the middle of the desert, seemingly alone. Why does he need a pen in his shirt pocket? Old-fashioned cowboys used a six-shooter. This one signs orders?

Another point about the economist covers. In all of them, Bush is alone. As he represents America, is this supposed to say that America stands alone? Why is Bush's isolationism seen as favoriable, and indeed eviable?

the pen is a real good point, even aside from that it looks a little photoshopped. Other people mentioned the brightness/darkness divide on the President vs. the desert, notice also the difference in clarity/quality: Bush is in sharp detail; you can see every vein and muscle in his arm. Now look at the desert, it's blurry and grainy. I know this /could/ be a real picture, but it looks like an edit to me.

If it is an edit, that makes every detail more important (eg the pen)...maybe the watch represents that he's running out of time? (that would go with the eyes: squinting to see the unclear, blurry, sandy future)

I also notice that the figure seems slightly out of proportion to the landscape; there's about as much sky as there is ground (about 1cm more ground on my monitor), creating an illusion of seeing "eye-to-eye" with the President, yet the sky portion is taken up with the Economist's title and the headline, giving an illusion of "looking up" to Bush at the same time.

I usually hate making such characterisations because it objectifies the person and removes reasoned debate but in this case I just cant help it...

look at the way the head and shoulders are pushed forward, the way his arms are hanging - there is something of the chimpanzee about this man. And I really do not wish to offend chimpanzee-kind but maybe there is also a similarity here. In that chimps are as chimps are - there is no reasoning with them - no changing there mind about something through argument. Bush's ideas have moulded his body - you want to change the policy then change the president. Dont expect anything more.

What I see is a vulnerable cowboy. No hat. No horse. No dust on his clothes. No six-shooters at his sides although his hands seem ready to grab them. He appears to be trying to figure out what's off in the distance but he's unprotected from behind. If this picture is somehow representative of how Bush can expect to be treated by the press, it may be that the corner has been turned and it's High Noon at the Okay Corral.

Looking at the picture again .. eye of newt is right. Bush is trying to project 'tough cowboy' from the pose to the desert background. Maybe he has been practising this pose for long hours in front of the Oval Office mirror while waiting for Cheney and Rumsfeld to come up with the policy. Unfortunately even though the inward impression is 'cowboy' the outward vision is distinctly 'monkey'.

Griffin --

I know at least a few Southern Baptist women who are neither housewives nor repressed. They defy your stereotype and find George W. Bush the antithesis of sexy.

That said, I am struck by his rather hunched posture. Is he braced for a blow?

I see the setting as a beach, which was my first impression and still is. On his left side, outside the picture, I imagine there is one of those huge beach houses from about 1900 or thereabouts, with brown, weathered shingles, white columned porch extending on all sides, lots of gables. You know, the kind very rich Americans people have, where you might even run into the Kerrys and, nowadays, the Clintons. These are the haunts of the American aristocracy. The beach is somewhere in the northeast or in Californa, not in Texas of course, and the clothes are the ones he normally wears for lunch when he's keeping nice company. His hunched-over posture is probably the combined results of working out and slight overweight, under the influence of middle age. Funny his sexuality comes up. The man has understandably aged, but years ago I'm sure he physically attracted of lot of women, not necessarily southern and not necessarily Baptist, and, I would dare say, men. I have always found him highly ambiguous in all respects, which I sincerely mean. Just his military drag on the Mission Accomplished aircraft carrier is enough to cause speculation. However that may be, the man is a total disaster whether standing on a beach or in the middle of a desert.

i find the distance disconcerting. the photographer tried, i believe, to create a sense of space or distance between the viewer and the shrub. and then even more space behind him.

space. the final frontier, frontier man, the belt looks like it would be better suited for a little kids cowboy outfit. a "real" cowboy would have a simple buckle or a rodeo "big" buckle. shrubs buckle seems to only be missing the red childrens cowboy hat. and broomstick pony.

I missed if anyone mentioned the 1958 movie, to which the Economist title obviously refers. Are we to suppose George here is the embodiment of that drifter loser Ben Quick? Or Paul Newman, who was the star of that movie? If so, give me a break! Also, is that a Contents bar running across his crotch? (I can't tell, it's pretty.) small. Did the editors of the magazine intend for their readers' eyes to linger there?

I am so glad that I stumbled onto this site. The discussions and insite is most informative. I guess that a picture really is "...worth a thousand verbs!"

A man with nothing up his sleeve.

He looks hunched and in pain, like my Dad did when he had disc problems in his back. The shirt is just like my Dad's too - definitely too dorky for cowboy chic. I agree with the "old and confused" assesment. And is that Iraq in the background??!?

Re: Photoshopping, it would be unheard of if a cover image was NOT touched up in some way. It could be a composite of the desert and the president, but nothing in the image suggests it. If I were doing this, I'd blur, desaturate, and decontrast the background myself - that's how you separate people from the background in portraiture, whatever your intended message.

The image is of the sort that will appeal to both sides. To a liberal (like myself), it shows an annoyingly macho character taking on a world he doesn't really comprehend. To an administration supporter, it's a visage of a lone hero ready to take on the storm.

Re: clothing, that's not a terribly impressive shirt - it's too big. The pocket sags (and not just from the standard-issue photo op pen), the collar says "thrift store." The belt is a tad kitschy, but if you think that's a BIG buckle, y'all ain't been to Texas.

An unusual cover, ballsy in its mediocrity.

Presidents are never, never alone. They are always surrounded by bodyguards and Marines and politicians and secretaries and babies suitable for kissing.

So where is everyone here? To me, this picture says the president has become weak, so the tribe has led him out into the desert and left him there to starve.

Picture lacks the standard gun-and-holster and the hat.

Forgot to mention: That ornery-varmint-look on his face could be misconstrued. The guy risks looking as dumb as a post.

Maybe the picture is not perfect. Some see it as a desert setting, I see the genesis of a mushroom cloud.
This man with an expression, "you haven't seen it all yet", threatens the world. No matter how weak you want to paint him, he has few more years to work on it.

I'm curious as to how this image was made. Indeed it does look as though Bush was super-imposed onto the desert image.
That's not determinitive. I often get that effect in my photos, particularly if the focus is perfect on the subject and the background is distant. As for
Bush is in sharp detail; you can see every vein and muscle in his arm. Now look at the desert, it's blurry and grainy.
That's called depth of field and the grainy, unfocused background effect is referred to as bokeh. That's how focus works on a camera. I could easily take a picture just like this with my camera.

Regarding satorial matters and this quote:

Nice shirt, pants, and a massively prominant belt buckle.
Actually, for Texas, that's a small belt buckle. These are big belt buckles. And yes, I personally know Texans who wear buckles like that.

Lytom ~ Me, too, on the mushroom cloud. It is the first thing that came to mind. I find the discussion re: his sexuality interesting. Wasn't there a poll done a few months ago that showed worldwide his dismal scores from women on sex appeal? Another blogger recently wrote: "He seems like a potential date rape" and I have to agree. It was incredibly disheartening to see he gained more female votes this past November because many of us intuitively understand him to be a dangerous man, on a very personal level.

What I see is a vulnerable cowboy.

I agree. He also looks defensive, arms puffed out to seem bigger, but the sun is beatting down and there is no one on his side.

We (the people looking at this image) are against him and he has no allies.

I'm struck by the fact that summer has barely begun - the solstice was only last week - and already it is being called long and hot. Is this a prediction? If so, it aligns with my own feeling about what awaits America just beyond today's horizon.

Also, the stance looks to me like he is taunting someone - "oh yea, and what are you gonna do about it?" could be the caption. Like a schoolyard bully. It fits right into line with his policies and rhetoric, and objectifies the message that is being sent out to the corners of the world about what America is.

I think it's this that saddens me the most. I hold in my heart a vision of what America is - what it was created to be - a vision of America's destiny. This vision is of a lodestar, upholding Truth, Justice, and the Rule of Love throughout the world. My heart longs for day that this vision becomes a reality, when falsehood is outshined by the Light of Truth.

Attempting to answer Griffin's question about how us Brits see this: The 'John Wayne cowboy pose' aspect of the image didn't strike me at all until you asked if we saw it that way.

My immediate reaction was how simian the pose looked, and how like his Steve Bell caricature he looked.

Steve Bell is the cartoonist for the Guardian newspaper in the UK, who always draws GWB as a monkey, see,7371,1517810,00.html,7371,1501724,00.html,7371,1404796,00.html

etc etc (he's been drawing him in this manner for many years now).

He's squinting pretty hard.. it is difficult to see the future.

I don't think I'm saying much that hasn't already been said, but here it goes: I think that the separation between Bush and his surroundings is very telling of his foreign policy as well as his outlook on reality. The colors are very striking as well. The drab background and the bright blues and deep blacks of the foreground. It reminds me of groundhog's day. If George sees his shadow that means we'll have six more years of Iraqi winters. Actually, a ground hog, who pops up once a year to see what's going on, is another apt analogy for the Bush foreign policy machine. And this isn't really a dissection of the picture per se, but the body language conveyed in this photo is VERY hostile. The arms out, the furrowed brow, the off-kilter stance all say, "What are whining about now?" It's all very parental...and yet, very petulant at the same time.

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